On February 25, 2022, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Housing Authority of the City of Camden (HACC), New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) and The Michaels Organization broke ground on the first of four phases for the $145 million redevelopment of the City of Camden’s oldest public housing community: Ablett Village.
“As the statewide leader in providing and advocating for affordable housing and homeownership, New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency knows that development and preservation of quality homes is critical to achieving equitable outcomes for Camden residents,” said NJHMFA’s Tanya R. Hudson-Murray, Managing Director of Multifamily Programs. “This groundbreaking sparks the tremendous changes that can occur with a vision of equity and opportunity through the revitalization of Cramer Hill Family.”
Ablett Village had largely fallen into disrepair since its original construction in the 1950s. Congressman Donald Norcross, Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen plus state and local officials joined Ablett Village residents and other neighborhood stakeholders for the ceremonial groundbreaking marking the start of the first phase of the comprehensive revitalization.
“This is no ordinary redevelopment,” said Carstarphen. “By the time construction is finished, not only will Ablett Village residents have beautiful homes, but all Cramer Hill residents will have safer and more convenient transportation access, exciting economic opportunities, and a greater sense of community. And Cramer Hill Family is just the beginning – just wait until you see what else HACC and The Michaels Organization have in store.”
The first phase, known as Cramer Hill Family, will bring 75 new townhome-style affordable homes spread across three separate sites in East Camden.
“I am thrilled to witness the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of Ablett Village residents who fought so hard to stay in Cramer Hill,” said Alicka Ampry-Samuel, HUD Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey. “HUD has supported Camden residents every step of the way by providing two Choice Neighborhoods grants, Jobs Plus grants, and will continue to be there to ensure families have the financial stability they need to remain in their homes.”
The following three phases of development will bring an additional 350 homes, for a total of 425 mixed-income, energy-efficient homes to replace the current 306, as well as an on-site health clinic that will be operated by Virtua Health and the Rutgers-Camden School of Nursing.
“This groundbreaking will mark a life-changing investment into a community that I was born and bred in and one that has given me and my family so much,” Commissioner Al Dyer said. “Ablett Village is near and dear to my heart and was a place I called home for several years as a kid. That said, I’m excited to see this transformation take place as we move forward with generational change in East Camden.”
Also included are a community garden with locally sourced produce, offices and collaborative spaces for local community organization, community center, playgrounds and improvements to mass transit and pedestrian infrastructure to better connect residents to schools, work, retail, parks and green spaces, as well as to attract more businesses to the area.
“I was proud to work alongside the community to advocate for the funding for Ablett Village. Everyone deserves an affordable, safe place to call home and access to good-paying jobs,” said Norcross. “The Choice grant and this project invest in much-needed affordable housing and access to opportunity. This groundbreaking represents our shared vision of improving the quality of life and the health and safety of Ablett Village residents.”
HUD awarded Camden with a $35 million Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grant last spring to transform the Ablett Village community and Cramer Hill neighborhood, with a focus on expanding access to jobs and economic opportunities.
“For about two decades now, HACC, the Cramer Hill community, and our many partners have been striving towards a shared vision for a more equitable future in Ablett Village,” said Deborah Person-Polk, Chairperson of HACC. “And now with generous support and dedication from our partners, we are excited to finally make this vision a reality. It’s times like this that prove what is possible when we persevere and come together as a team.”
The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) also provided $13.9 million in tax credit equity through the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, with TD Bank, N.A., providing a $17 million construction loan, Berkadia a $6 million permanent loan and HUD an additional $1.5 million loan.
“The establishment of this new housing development will provide safe, affordable and convenient housing for Camden residents. The city and its residents deserve this fantastic opportunity,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden). “This redevelopment will create economic opportunities for many and place housing in an ideal location, bringing the community closer together in the process.”
Cramer Hill Family is slated to be completed by March 2023.
“Since the early 2000s, when developers wanted to build a marina and a golf course here, the residents of Ablett Village have lived in fear of being displaced,” said Tracey Powell, President of the Ablett Village Residents Council. “This is our home. This is where we want to be. But up until now, we were never 100 percent sure that we couldn’t lose our homes. But now we will finally have the housing security that we so desperately crave.”
The second phase, which will include 55 age-restricted homes also located off-site, is expected to begin in September 2022.
“In the past 10 years, The Michaels Organization has partnered with the City of Camden and HACC to redevelop seven housing communities, and now we look forward to transforming our eighth – Ablett Village,” said Nick Cangelosi, Vice President of The Michaels Organization. “Thanks to the support of our local partners, these homes are going to be beautiful, modern, and energy-efficient, specifically designed to meet the needs of our residents. And we aren’t stopping at brick and mortar; we will also continue to ‘Lift Lives’ with our trademark scholarship and professional development programs.”
Photo courtesy of The Michaels Organization.